Something Wild

1986, Movie, R, 113 mins

Review

SOMETHING WILD
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One bright Friday afternoon in lower Manhattan, Charles Driggs (Jeff Daniels), a successful young tax consultant, capriciously skips out of a tiny diner without paying his lunch check. Just outside, he is stopped by Audrey Hankel (Melanie Griffith), a Louise Brooks-clone in black wig and vaguely African attire. She calls herself "Lulu," presumably a reference to Brooks' character in PANDORA'S BOX. She tells Charles that she saw him walk out on the check and threatens to turn him in. Declaring that Charles is actually a "closet rebel," she decides instead that he'd be game for a road trip. Before he knows what is happening, Charles finds himself in Audrey's convertible being driven to New Jersey. Through Audrey he is temporarily freed from his normal bourgeois restraints. They have a little adventure on the road as they engage in some petty theft, mildly kinky sex, and finally attend Audrey's high school reunion. This modern screwball comedy takes a frightening dark turn when they encounter Audrey's psychotic ex-husband, Ray (Ray Liotta), who has just gotten out of jail.

Since his early films, director Jonathan Demme has demonstrated a sharp eye for the American landscape and its people. With a keen wit and an optimistic compassion, Demme has creates vividly human characters whose quirks have the ring of truth about them. With a screenplay from first-time screenwriter E. Max Frye and superior performances from his principal cast, Demme has created a unique and likable film in SOMETHING WILD. John Cale and Laurie Anderson compiled the film's rousing rock soundtrack which features nearly 50 songs.

Some viewers were alarmed at the dark violent turn the story takes more than halfway through but close viewing reveals that the audience is subtly being prepared for this tonal shift from early on. This is a film that benefits greatly from a second screening. Demme keeps his quirky narrative twisting and turning so that the viewer can never predict what will happen next. He draws us in with humor and then grabs us by the throat, bringing us face-to-face with the failures of the American dream. A filmmaker with a small but devoted following, he would not have a major popular hit until the 1991 blockbuster, THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS. leave a comment

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